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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Line play has lifted Penns Manor, Homer-Center to success

by ELI NELLIS eli@indianagazette.net on October 23, 2013 10:40 AM

It’s a big matchup in more ways than one.

Penns Manor and Homer-Center will clash Friday, a pair of 8-0 football teams in a de facto Heritage Conference title game. They’re also two of the biggest physically, with offensive and defensive fronts weighing in at an average over 200 pounds.

“Their size matches ours pretty close,” Penns Manor coach Bill Packer said. “It’s going to be a battle up front. There’s no way that we’re going to be overpowering people, because they’re just as big as us, and they’re strong from what I’ve seen.”

“It’s going to be a big challenge. Looking back to last year, I’m not going to lie, we kind of got our teeth kicked in,” Homer-Center right tackle Cody Miller said of the Comets’ 48-15 win over the Wildcats a year ago, “but this year we’re looking forward. We’re bigger and more experienced this year. We’re looking forward to trying to get some revenge.”

The lines have been a big part in the two teams sitting first and second in the area in rushing offense (Penns Manor 302.5 yards per game, Homer-Center 298.9), total offense (Penns Manor 367.9, Homer-Center 360.2), rushing defense (Penns Manor 65.6, Homer-Center 114.6), total defense (Penns Manor 162.8, Homer-Center 196.4) and scoring defense (Homer-Center 11.1 points per game, Penns Manor 11.9).

“It’s different. Nobody’s sized up to us,” Penns Manor guard Luke Ruddock said.

“This team sizes up well, but I think we’re going to be alright if we come to play. That’s the biggest thing right now.”

“It’s going to be a battle between really good kids up front on both sides of the ball, and everybody knows for the most part that’s where the games are won and lost,” Homer-Center coach Greg Page said.

Page’s offensive line — tackles Luke Monko and Bill Grozanick, center Shawn Steffee and guards Miller and Tom Rura — weighs in at an average of 224 pounds, anchored by the 252-pound Monko. The Wildcats defensive front — Miller, Steffee, Monko and Jim Bence — comes in at 229 pounds.

The Comets, with John Stupic at center, Stephen Dumm and Ruddock at the guards and Mitch Hamilton and Brandon Alter at the tackles, average 229 pounds on offense. The defensive front four — Stupic, Ruddock, Alter and Andrew Somogyi — average 218. Ruddock leads the pack at 250 pounds.

“It’s pretty much head-on-head, going against guys the same size and physicality,” Stupic said.

“It’s going to be a long game. We’ll get sore.”

As close as the lines are in size, they’re also similar in experience level, each with four seniors out of five starting offensive linemen. Homer-Center’s offensive line holds a slight edge with 14 combined years of starting experience compared to Penns Manor’s 12.

The Comets are a mixture, with the senior Ruddock a four-year starter. His classmate Stupic is a third-year starter and Alter, a junior, is in his second year starting. Hamilton is a senior starting on the line for the first season.

Homer-Center has four three-year starting seniors in Monko, Grozanick, Steffee and Miller, and Rura, a junior, is in his second year starting.

“I’m just hoping that our experience on offensive line and defensive line takes over, because we’re going against probably the biggest team we have gone against this year,” Packer said.”

“Not only in average size,” Page said they are similar, “but in the quality of the guys on their lines, too. It’s a lot of the same guys we faced last year and they won the battle, so we are trying to do everything we can to reverse that.”

That includes a lot of head-to-head work between the big boys in individual drills.

“You just try to turn it up in practice as hard as you can,” Miller said. “In the weight room we do a couple extra sets. Out here (at practice) we do a couple extra drills here and there, stay a little bit after to do a couple steps with your other linemen.”

“Usually what we do is when we do our individual work we’ll put the big guys against the big guys and work with each other, bucking them, and guys with that experience go against each other,” Packer said. “We do a lot of that so they are blocking some of the best. That’s the only way you can do that. when you’re in a second group or a third group, you really can’t get the work that you need doing that.”

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